Canada’s Documentary Essentials: ‘Lonely Boy’

Dirs. Wolf Koenig, Roman Kroitor; 1962

1 min read

The girls just go crazy for Canuck crooner Paul Anka in Lonely Boy. Drawing upon the observational practices of the NFB’s Candid Eye series and appearing within the global movement of cinema verité, Lonely Boy documents the transition of a pop idol into a nightclub performer. The film focuses on the alterations to Anka’s body as a piece of merchandise and finds something tragically isolating in the young man giving himself to managers, backers and fans to consume. While the film highlights Anka’s ambition and success, it draws out the irony of his hit song “Lonely Boy.”

There’s a moment at the end of the doc in which the screams of adoring fans are silenced as Anka’s song overlays the grotesque images of young girls in ecstasy. The play with subjective sound puts Anka at a remove from his fans, but thrusts the audience into the thrall of the show. The screams aren’t audible, but one can hear them.

Read more POV picks for Canada’s Documentary Essentials!

Lonely Boy, Wolf Koenig & Roman Kroitor, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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